Building Contractor Insurance
Building contractors manage the construction of a new building or renovation to an existing building. Building contractors generally specialize in constructing single family homes or commercial buildings such as factories, offices, restaurants, or stadiums. Most have a set group of permanent employees, and then subcontract the remaining tasks to specialty subcontractors.
Description of Operations
While firms whose employees do no actual construction work are commonly called “paper” contractors, they generally act as “prime” contractors for such tasks as framing carpentry, structural masonry, or metal building erection. Mechanical tasks such as plumbing, heating, and electrical are usually completed by subcontractors.
Once the land has been purchased and the design or architectural work has been done, the building contractor oversees the project from the site or land preparation, through excavation and laying of the foundation, to the completion of the building, including the interior finish. Typically, the building contractor first turns the architect’s design into specifications for work and materials, setting quality standards, scheduling the phases of the project, and dictating insurance requirements for the project as a whole and for the subcontractors. The contractor then gets bids (solicits competitive proposals) from potential subcontractors and suppliers. Together with the customer (the project owner), the building contractor awards the bids to the successful subcontractors. The building contractor is also responsible for complying with all local and state ordinances, codes and zoning requirements, including purchasing the necessary permits and obtaining the necessary surety bonds.
Building Contractors and other types of Building Contractor codes that may apply to this: Contractor- project manager, construction executive, construction manager or construction superintendent; Contractors – subcontracted work – in connection with building construction, reconstruction, repair or erection – apartment or office buildings over 4 stories; Contractors – subcontracted work – in connection with building construction, reconstruction, repair or erection – one or two family dwellings; Contractors – subcontracted work in connection with construction, reconstruction, repair or erection of buildings – for industrial use; Manufactured, modular or prefabricated home setup, hookup or installation at building site.
Common Insurance Terms
Property exposures at the building contractor’s own location are usually limited to that of an office. Ignition sources include electrical wiring, heating, and air conditioning systems. If the building contractor is a paper contractor, there will be no yard storage of building materials or equipment since there are no operations other than paperwork. If the building contractor is involved in framework or masonry, lumber or bricks may be stored on site, increasing the exposure to fire, inclement weather, vandalism, and theft.
Crime exposure is from employee dishonesty. Background checks should be conducted prior to hiring any employee. All ordering, billing and disbursements must be handled as separate duties and annual external audits conducted.
Surety bond exposures arise from the clients’ requirement that the general contractor obtain financial guarantees for the completion of projects and payment of labor and supplies. Inability of the contractor to qualify for these bonds due to their prior experience and financial condition may indicate a moral hazard.
Inland marine exposures may include accounts receivable if the contractor bills customers for services, builders’ risk, contractors’ equipment, goods in transit, installation floater, and valuable papers and records for project plans, clients’, subcontractors’, and suppliers’ information. Builders’ Risk is an important coverage for many building contractors. Besides obtaining coverage for themselves, they may need to coordinate their subcontractors’ coverages and terms so limits are adequate for the overall project. Subcontractors generally have their own equipment with independent coverage. The building contractor may arrange for the lease of larger equipment, such as cranes, for subcontractors to use, either with or without operators. The contractual agreements between the building contractor and the rental firms determine who is responsible for any damage to the rented equipment. If the building contractor performs tasks at the job site, equipment may be subject to water hazards, overturn, drop, and fall from heights, or being struck by other vehicles. Materials and equipment left at job sites may be subject to theft and vandalism loss unless proper controls are in place. Copies of building plans should be kept at an offsite location for easier restoration.
Premises liability exposures at the contractor’s premises are usually limited due to lack of public access. Equipment or materials provided by subcontractors are not stored at the building contractor’s office location. At the job site, the building contractor is ultimately responsible for all injuries or property damage that results from construction operations, including those that are due to the acts or omissions of subcontractors. Lack of adequate communication between the different subcontractors can cause hazardous working conditions, especially if blasting or similar hazardous operations take place. Heavy machinery used for excavation may cut power lines, disrupting service to other homes or businesses in the vicinity. Welding presents potential for burns or setting the property of others on fire if not conducted safely. The contractor’s employees can cause damage to the client’s other property or bodily injury to members of the public or employees of other contractors. Tools, power cords, and scrap all pose trip hazards even when not in use. If there is work at heights, falling tools, or supplies may cause damage and injury if dropped from ladders, scaffolding, or cranes. Failure to protect equipment, building materials, and property of others left at job sites from theft and vandalism may result in a subrogated loss. Construction sites create attractive nuisance hazards, particularly to children who enjoy climbing and vandals after operations have ceased for the day and on weekends. Safety barriers such as perimeter fencing should be used to control access to the jobsite.
Contractual liability exposures are very high for building contractors. While it is important to control physical hazards, the absolute key to successful performance is likely to be management of contractual language. Catastrophic financial losses and expensive litigation may arise if the building contractor fails to verify that subcontractors’ certificates of insurance are accurate and the limits are adequate for both liability and workers compensation coverages. In addition, the building contractor and project owner must be included as additional insureds on the subcontractors’ policies. The specific terms of the additional insured status may play a significant role in who pays for a loss.
Completed operations exposures are high due to the injury and property damage that can result from improper interpretation of building plans, use of materials that do not meet the quality standards required by design specifications, inadequate construction techniques, or lax supervision of the acts of subcontractors. Hazards increase in the absence of proper record keeping of work orders and change orders, as well as quality control inspections and signed approval of the finished work by the customer.
Automobile exposures may be limited to private passenger only if executive supervisors simply travel from site to site. If the building contractor is also handling part of the construction, workers, equipment, and supplies may be transported to and from job sites. Vehicles may have special modifications or built-in equipment such as lifts and hoists. Large materials such as air conditioners may be awkward and require special handling and tie-down procedures. Shifting of loads could result in overturn. If vehicles are provided to employees, there should be written procedures regarding personal use by employees and their family members. All drivers must have appropriate licenses and acceptable MVRs. Vehicles must be maintained and the records kept in a central location.
Workers compensation exposures vary based on the size and nature of the job. When an executive supervisor is only reviewing and giving oversight, the exposure is clerical with some jobsite inspection. However, if actual construction work is done or supervisors remain at job sites continuously, the exposures increase to those encountered by each type of worker on the project. Control of the jobsite is the responsibility of the building contractor, who may be held responsible for any injuries of subcontractors on the job. Verification that every subcontractor carries adequate workers compensation coverage is important.
Minimum recommended coverage
Business Personal Property, Employee Dishonesty, Surety Bonds, Accounts Receivable, Builders’ Risk, Computers, Valuable Papers and Records, General Liability, Employee Benefits Liability, Umbrella Liability, Business Automobile Liability and Physical Damage, Hired and Nonownership Auto Liability, Workers Compensation
Other coverages to consider
Building, Business Income with Extra Expense, Earthquake, Flood, Leasehold Interest, Real Property Legal Liability, Contractors’ Equipment, Goods in Transit, Installation Floater, Cyberliability, Employment-related Practices Liability, Environmental Impairment Liability, Stop Gap Liability, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) (Drones)
Reprinted with permission from the Rough Note’s Company copyrighted content.
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